Good news? Bad news?
Head coach Carolina Morace and her staff, including assistant coach and former Canadian national team midfielder Andrea Neil, resigned Wednesday, July 20 during the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2011 debriefing and analysis meeting with the Canadian Soccer Association and other stakeholders.
Under Morace’s guidance since February 2009, Canada rose to their highest ever ranking of 6th in the world, all while claiming first place trophies at the Cyprus Cup (twice), the Torneio Internacional Cidade de São Paulo (Four Nations Tournament in Brazil) and the 2010 CONCACAF Gold Cup, and defeating quality opponents like England and Sweden.
Ben Rycroft of It’s Called Football points out that between January 1, 2009 and June 25, 2011, Canada played more matches than Brazil, France, Germany, Japan and USA. Additionally, the team spent 114 days of 2011 training overseas in various camps.
Based on these results and preparations, Big Red headed into the WWC seemingly poised to capture its best ever results, even medal.
As it turned out, the team gravely fell short of expectations, losing all three games and failing to advance past the group stage for the fourth time. Canada’s best result at the WWC was in 2003 when they upset China in the quarter-finals and eventually placed fourth overall.
After a closely fought 2-1 match against Germany that featured a stunning free kick goal by Christine Sinclair that snapped the host’s 622-minute WWC shutout streak, Canada lost its composure and was hounded by France 4-0, and fell 1-0 to Nigeria. Canada finished last in the 16-team tournament and registered three shots on goal.
Since the loss to France, murmurings began to circulate of Morace potentially stepping down, but she bluntly stated, “Yes, I want to continue,” following the match against Nigeria.
All else indicated that Morace would remain as head coach. The Globe and Mail‘s Stephen Brunt said of the dynamic between Morace and the CSA, “This is a very tense relationship. It’s a bad marriage at this point, or at least a very fractious marriage, but it is going to continue.”
With Morace’s sudden resignation last week, CSA General Secretary Peter Montopoli told The Canadian Press, “Yes, I would say we were surprised.”
Montopoli went on to thank Morace in a press release. “The Canadian Soccer Association would like to recognize the contribution that Coach Morace and her staff have made to the advancement of the Women’s National Team program… We congratulate them on their achievements and wish them well in their next endeavour.”
Players, too, expressed their disbelief. Emily Zurrer and Kaylyn Kyle, who found out about the coaching situation through an e-mail sent to players by Morace, shared their thoughts with John Molinaro.
Christine Sinclair spoke to the media last Sunday after the WNY Flash’s 2-2 draw with the Boston Breakers and said, “Obviously, we’re all in a little bit of shock because we think she’s a tremendous coach and we fully support her. Obviously we didn’t do so well at the World Cup, but I think the build up for the World Cup, the two years before that, wasn’t a fluke. Getting ranked sixth in the world wasn’t a fluke. Unfortunately, we played badly in one game that mattered most, and we’re sad to see her go. I wish her all the best in whatever coaching position she gets next.”
On the other hand, (barring Google Translate errors) this article by corriere.com, linked via Molinaro, suggests that the CSA passively attempted to oust Morace. A questionnaire distributed to players garnering their opinions for improving the WNT program allegedly did not address Morace’s performance as a coach specifically, but used vague wording for answers that could be interpreted as knocks against her. (Can anyone fluent in Italian help to clarify?)
Tension between Morace and the CSA is not new. In February of this year, Morace submitted a letter to the CSA detailing her intent to step down as head coach upon the conclusion of the WWC. A lack of autonomy in controlling the program was cited among her grievances.
This rift was coupled with an ongoing compensation dispute between the players and the CSA. Players stood in solidarity with their coach, threatening to boycott international matches until an agreement was made to keep Morace at the helm.
All issues came to a resolution three weeks before the start of the WWC. Morace agreed to stay on as the head coach of the U-20 and senior women’s sides through to the 2012 London Olympics.
Present at the debriefing and analysis meeting included Morace, her staff, as well as representatives from the CSA, as well as Own the Podium, a technical program established to help Canadian athletes medal, and b2ten, “the private-sector charitable group organized to provide support for Canadian amateur athletes.” Both parties are providing additional support to the CanWNT as they head into next year’s Olympic Games.
There is very little time to find a successor to Morace.
The CanWNT will reconvene in Vancouver this September to prepare for the 2012 CONCACAF Olympic Qualifiers. The tournament, running January 19-29, will take place in the newly renovated BC Place, future home of MLS’s Vancouver Whitecaps and one of the potential host venues for the 2015 WWC in Canada. Only two teams from the region will advance to the Olympics.
Montopoli emphasizes that the incoming coach, to be named this fall at the latest, will continue developing the team’s possession oriented approach set forth by Morace.
Morace has been both credited and praised for implementing a more possession oriented style on a team that was once dependent on playing long balls (although they reverted to old habits during the WWC when under pressure). The team enthusiastically embraced changes to their training regiment and nutrition that accompanied new technical and tactical savviness.
Although a press release was made on Friday, the CSA has yet to publish news of Morace’s departure on their website.
The Morace era ends with an official match record of 25 wins, 5 draws and 11 losses, including a team high 11 game (9W, 2D) unbeaten streak spanning from September 30, 2010 to January 21, 2011.
In other news
Canada slipped two spots to No. 8 on the FIFA/Coca-Cola Women’s World Ranking. England advanced up four places to claim 6th, while Australia cracked the top 10 for the first time to claim the No. 9 position. Despite winning the 2011 WWC, Japan remains in 4th place along with an unchanged top 5 led by the USA.
The CSA recently announced a two-year partnership with Del Monte Canada Inc. The brand features a product line that includes pre-packaged fruits and vegetables, frozen novelties and fruit snacks.
Christine Sinclair has also signed to be an athlete representative for Del Monte Canada.
To kick off the new sponsorship, fans can enter a sweepstake to win a soccer clinic for their club or school team hosted by Sinclair. Products featuring this promotion will be available in stores across Canada in mid-August. You can enter the contest through the Del Monte website.
Kaylyn Kyle joined the Vancouver Whitecaps of the W-League early last week. After defeating the Santa Clarita Blue Heat 4-3 to claim the Western Conference title on Sunday, the ‘Caps return to the W-League Final Four to face the Atlanta Silverbacks in Seattle July 29.
Three Canadians recently signed with Damallsvenskan clubs in Sweden. Goalkeeper Erin McLeod is with league basement dwellers Dalsjöfors GoIF, while Carmelina Moscato and Melissa Tancredi will join fellow CanWNT teammate Stephanie Labbé at Piteå IF.